Sea Change?

I get my news from a variety of places and then I interpret it through my personal biases and ignorance, my experiences and values and my own fantasies. By the time I get any real thinking going on, 80% of it has already come from the very limited mental vault that is Dave’s aging brain. I.e. my thinking is crap. Still, it is my crap, it is at least somewhat grounded in my own personal reality (I hope) and I try real hard to be honest. But, of course, I come up short.

“How do you know when you are wrong?”

Sal will tell me.

Still, I think. Therefore I am. And this is what I am thinking now – and this thought comes from inferential scanning and non-scientific thinking – in other words: I cannot cite my sources, I cannot validate my thoughts, I cannot legitimately defend the following hypothesis….but I have these thoughts nevertheless. All my thoughts on this topic are ‘inferential’ or hunches based on nothing…maybe a few articles….maybe fantasy…..a dash of ignorance, a pinch of nutty. I am a sensitive guy.

Dateline 2020. People are leaving the cities. Starting now! I thought that might happen when I left but eventually I concluded that I was not the centre of everyone’s universe and so my departure meant nothing to them. A trend did not happen. Still, the forces that moved me would eventually move others – or so I thought.

That did not happen either. At least it did not happen right away.

A few people seemed to be on the same wavelength as me and, to be fair, within a few years there was a Netflix series on OTG/Doomsday preppers and lots of ads offering OTG products but the actual EXODUS was a trickle at best, a few blips now and then. The world was NOT moving OTG.

But housing prices are a REAL harbinger of people’s inclinations, commitments, desires. And housing prices in the US are an eye-opener right now. Homes in Silicon Valley are dropping. Homes in San Francisco and dozens of other cities are dropping. Rents are dropping. That can only happen when DEMAND drops.

Why would demand drop?

Part of it is C-19. No, people are not leaving to escape the disease, they are leaving because they can. C-19 legitimized and accelerated the trend to work-from-home. That is especially true for the computer economy and nothing says computer economy more than Silicon Valley and California. Those who live and work in the digital world can now do so from afar. And their employers are encouraging it. The price of housing in Silicon Valley in the 90’s was astronomical. Today? Urban vacancy rates are high and housing prices are dropping.

But it is NOT just Northern California. Many large cities are facing a slow exodus as people discover that they can have a better life either in the ‘burbs or further out. It seems that the ten largest cities in the US are flat or declining in population. Suburban is popular. Rural is now hip. Who would have thought a virus could show us the way?

In fact, even extreme satellite locations are growing. Panama for instance. Many modern folks can live and work in the US economy while living in a foreign country. Cheaper. Healthier. Probably safer. And, they are doing it.

The really weird thing is this: first went the specialists – those were the celebrities, actors and the capitalists. They went remote when I did. Decades ago. But the ‘specialists’ are NOT a movement. The numbers are too small. But then went the paranoid – those who could afford it and wanted out from what they saw as either an oppressive society or a vulnerable one. Then came the young romantics – the modern equivalent of back-to-the-landers. They are NOT a huge segment but, with the paranoid and the celebrity/elite, they created a bit of a ‘phenomena’. Where I fit, I have no idea but there is no question I am part of the ‘phenomena’. Frankly, I think I am a Johnny-come-lately but I was an early Johnny and there was a smidge of ground-breaking involved…I think. NOT a lot. I surfed in on an easy wave.

The point? I do not have one. Inferential scanning (as stated) is not verifiable by way of current data and analysis. Inferential scanning is another way of saying, ‘I have a hunch’. This is the gut doing the talking.

My gut tells me the exodus has begun.

27 thoughts on “Sea Change?

  1. What is the optimal population for your area of OTG? Was it Scott who suggested that space is getting crowded in your neck of the woods? All over BC people are facing challenges in getting services needed for day to day living. Housing costs have dropped in some areas from 1.5 million to 1 million for example in Coquitlam as reported recently in the media. The big push for some young people is do activities that young folks crave. Recently a big party at Wreak Beach was broken up. If one were to live in Boston Bar and needed certain services one might end up driving to Chilliwack. In most of rural Canada broadband is spotty. One issue in small towns is that the youth leave. What is your target demographic for heading off the grid?

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    • I do not have an optimum…..I have no idea of what is just right. But we could easily double our community and not notice it. After that, the flavour would change but maybe for the better….I do not know. My gut suggests 25 more families but no more. Just a visceral call.
      Part of my guesswork is based on more independents. But 25 more dependent urbanites might create work, might create problems, might be a burden….hard to say. The safe bet is Scots. No more.

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  2. Panama?
    Nice if 90 percent humidity 12 months of the year is comfortable for you.
    CBC recently claimed residential re is up 14 percent year over year, what to believe in this time of “fake news”?

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    • Canada always trails the US trends so don’t go by what the CBC says. Plus, the US culture is more divided and extreme than ours. I think too, we have a generally more stable residential mindset simply because it costs so much to get a home….so we ride it out. They dont. They declare bankruptcy and move.

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  3. I dunno JDC. I get very little news these days, because the word now on the street is that all news is “fake”, there is no actual news reporting anymore and absolutely no reliable sources.

    I never read newspapers because I have long earned my living reading, so when the Vancouver Sun used to call up and offer me 6 months for free I said I’d take it only if they paid me to read it. As well, I could never get comfortable with the idea of cutting down forests, building paper mills and all their pollution, to buy a newspaper (my dad used to weigh the Toronto Star weekend edition…I think it came in at about 3-4 lb.) that would get read once at best (and then only a fraction of it) then sent to the landfill.

    But, I digress.

    I used to watch the CTV 6 p.m. news regularly. Here, OTG, I still pay for satellite TV and once every couple of weeks or so I watch the news to feel that I am getting something for the 40 bucks a month or whatever it is that I pay for tv. A few days ago they “reported” that more houses in Vancouver sold this past July than EVER. Can that be true? Or is it just fake news? They also reported that Toronto and Vancouver prices are up, up and away, setting new records.

    The CTV report showed a Toronto house that was listed for $1 million and sold for $1.8 million. It was plainly land value, being just a small shack on the lot which, itself, appeared to be minuscule…maybe 25 feet wide on a good day. They would not say the location of course, but a brief street shot made it look like a working class neighbourhood. Kinda’ reminiscent of Coxwell and Danforth. It could have been the last piece of a land assembly in an area upzoned for a mega project or it could have been storytelling. No way to give it context, so I’ll chalk it up to fake news. Not sure why the media would be hyping these things. But no way of explaining much of what the media does these days. But it’s a very different report from those to which you make reference Dave, that say our cities are becoming ghost towns. Or maybe that’s just a U.S. thing. Wait and see, I guess.

    I have wondered for years why more folks from lower mainland BC do not sell out for millions and buy further afield, such as the general area where we are situate. I have not seen it happening. Maybe some think it’s coming. I see of late one Quadra Island real estate agent advertising strata lots in “Quadra Island’s newest subdivision”. The lots are generally about 2.5 acres in size. Just in the bush. No oceanfront, no view. Prices are in the $250,000 range, or about $100,000/acre. I see that as quite expensive, but a tad below Vancouver land prices. But around here, $55,000 will get you 10 acres, a price that has remained about the same for 25 years or so.

    Dave, you have said elsewhere on this site: “But properties OTG have fallen like common sense and so there are tons of good places for sale quite cheap. No window has been closed.” That was penned in 2015, but nothing has changed. We have a big piece of oceanfront, but I doubt it’s worth more than what I paid in early 90s. Probably less. A lot less in inflation-adjusted dollars.

    I also read lately on another site that lumber prices have taken off of late. Somehow tied to C-19 (what isn’t?) I have no idea if that’s true, that prices are up conspicuously. That’s maybe the only way I could salvage something here if I sold. Sell the trees, if they have appreciated. Well, maybe not sell ‘em all. Keep some along the waterfront. Maybe sell off about 30 acres or so of timber. The land and buildings are a loss. So yes, this area is ripe for an influx of urban refugees. For the sale price of a Vancouver condo they can come here and get a half mile of oceanfront and, if they are talented like you and Sal, they can mill their own lumber and build a nice place very economically. The condo sale should fund the land purchase and building project.

    The last house I owned in Vancouver is now assessed at just over $3 million for the 60 x 130′ lot and just over $2 million for the house on it. I sold for lot value (long before it got into the lofty $3 million range, more’s the pity, but still a 5-fold increase over a decade). The 1914 bungalow that was on it in the years I owned it has been replaced. That $3 million would buy some luxury here. Maybe someone should cash out now, and be in the vanguard of the exodus. Who knows, in a few years, maybe that $5 million house and lot will be worth only $250,000 and every other house will be empty. Of course, exodus or no, that result might obtain if C-19 has its way and takes out enough of us. Another reason to get out of Dodge. Here, it’s not so hard to “self-isolate” when your nearest neighbour is a mile away.

    Time to end this tiresome post and go get another cup of coffee. The sun is shining, enough to run the coffee maker and not draw from the batteries. The SE wind and rain of yesterday is no more. Two whales are passing by 100 feet from the house, a bald eagle is perched in a big fir outside my office window and it feels pretty good to be here.

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    • In a small and prescient way, your story kinda proves the point. You can and have practiced your profession while living remote. And nowadays C-19 is making that more obvious to many and large companies are making it more acceptable. One of my relatives lives only a few miles from his employment but has worked from home all Spring and Summer. The prophecy above, such as it is, was inferentially deduced. Just signs in the entrails of goats and chickens. Confirmed by the stars and thrown chicken bones. But the story of Silicon Valley was just recently read from some legit source and so the tide has maybe turned – at least for now – in California.
      I, too, am surprised by the lack of popular appeal our local heaven has but I do not lament it. I’d like a few more folks but popularity might bring too many. I am happy with the eccentrics who choose it but not any masses, hordes or ‘healthy robust markets’. I want them to stay away in droves ‘cept for a few nice people who are hardy but willing to help others.
      Another thing that surprises me: money worries. There are folks out there sitting in $2M urban homes, with RRSPs up the wazoo and they worry about their money! Those folks are retired! The home equity alone would pay for a move and then some. They have no financial worries but they are so used to accumulating and worrying, they are frozen-in-place. Talk about Golden handcuffs.

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      • Interesting observations from the both of you.

        I view the MSM with a jaundiced eye. The wont bite the advertising hand that feeds them.
        Housing sales in the Lower Brain land may be up….but condo sales are tanking ( who wants to share an elevator with a coughing , sneezing, Covid 19 neighbour?).

        As for the exodus to the boonies……..lets see how that pans out in 12-24 months.
        The idea of “living off the land” appeals to most….
        The brutal reality of fixing your own plugged toilet/sink/tub? OMG!
        And then there is the cold reality of ….no Amazon Meal delivery! You mean I have to COOK ……EVERYDAY?
        methinks the Millennial exodus will reverse itself faster than the bank mortgage repossessions that are almost guaranteed to occur in the next 12 months.

        Enjoy the show from OTG….I’m living it and the daily “meltdowns i see are epic.

        Two guys almost slugged it out in a Home Depot Covid “social distancing” lineup yesterday because one guy was texting and didnt step forward so another guy stepped around him to take the vacant spot.

        Road rage is up.
        People pushing their buggies around in Safeway are snarling at each other for perceived lineup injustices.
        Victoria actually just grew testicles and issued the first fine for a Covid party.
        $2300 for the idiot under 30 that doesnt give two shites about everyone else.
        If only Vancouver’s Mayor had a spine……..but that’s another story for another day.

        I just putter away, making a shiteload of money….with a plan.

        🙂

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  4. I hope your plan includes OTG.
    There is a weird contingent of the general public that somehow convinced itself that masks, distancing and consideration for others is some kind of plot against their rights and freedoms. Darwin at work, I guess. Bona fide idiots waging war against themselves. When I hear that nonsense I am dumbfounded at it but it is kinda frightening in its enormous stupidity as well. Where did all the dumb Bubbas come from?

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  5. same over here in Europe, which adds proof to the story of David. A year ago, I was looking at some propety in France (big country, not so far from us, lots of space and no one around. In France alone, more then 1400 castles and manors were for sale, with NOBODY wanting to buy them. So you could actually buy yourself a castle or manor for 400.000 Canadian dollars, with 50 acres of land. But you had to do some work, because a lot of these places have been empty for years. But you could kinda go OTG, be miles away from your nearest neighbour and be self-reliant in some way. Of course, you don’t have the sea view, the whales, the bald eagles….but you would have peace and quiet. I looked again a few weeks ago, and more then half of these properties have been sold since COVID began. So a LOT of people are fleeing away from the cities to go rural.
    But I also agree with nonconfidence….how many people actually are willing to do what is necessary to go OTG and fix their own meals and toilets.
    So my guess is, yes, there will be an exodus, a HUGE one if things get worse with COVID. But if CPVID “gets under control” (whatever that means), a lot of these properties will be available again on the market for very low prices

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  6. Very interesting wimdegendt. The idea of my own castle, a fiefdom, sounds intriguing. Sure, maybe have to give up the sea view, the whales and dolphins etc. The eagles could, though, be traded for hawks. Perhaps, as laird of the manor, I could take up the ancient sport of falconry. And maybe plant a vineyard and invite jdc and Sal to the first tasting of the product! I’m getting stoked!

    I’ll have to work ma bit on my French. Have not used it much since university days. But, perhaps with the Beaujolais flowing, it might not matter so much.

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  7. Well we all have to work with the information we receive and filter it through our experience and developed minds. You always give it your best shot!

    Our information these days can be faulty more often than not given media.

    In the greater Seattle area that migration away from the cities has not happened yet. In fact the demand is really high and home prices are increasing year over year and we are poised to make the greatest gains of the past decade in 2020.
    It is hard to understand given the economic impact of COVID 19 and all the city of Seattle has endured these past months.

    So much in life these days is hard to understand. One has to be discerning. Easier said then done.

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    • Well, Frederic, thanks for understanding the untidiness of our minds. We really do NOT know very much – none of us. NOT even the scientists or the credentialed talking heads. A now-departed local politician used to say, “Beware the experts!”
      I really only have a chance at knowing what is immediately around me and, if you see the standard of my work, you would assume I know little of even that! Still, I have an IQ and I might as well try to get some use out of it. God only knows, I have not derived a full measure of value from it so far.
      But I am NOT one of those who rejects science and I am certainly NOT one of those who celebrate Bubbadom in Sturgess or other such asinine cultural events. I think brains can sometimes, maybe, possibly, and usually rarely be used for good. Call me crazy. But, as a counterpoint to that, Marilyn Suvant (IQ of 225 or so) has pointed out that the ‘nerdy-scientist-types’ are usually much too narrowly focused and so their special interest or study is usually out of context with the larger world and so they, too, can be very wrong despite their education. In other words, inferential scanning is also a valid way of processing.
      I suspect that Silicon Valley real estate prices are just a harbinger (tho there are signs in other cities). A huge exodus will probably never happen. But I also suspect that C-19 will alter everything and, to some extent, that will transfer OTG. As Noncon pointed out, “Who wants to share an elevator these days?” If we get more martial law (ICE and HOMELAND) and if people continue to get poorer, if working from home takes off and more and more people live homeless and destitute, drugged up and zombie-like, and if the economy goes flat, all that plus the aging boomers with bucks-in-the-bank will, of course, leave the deteriorating, under-funded cities. It is really just a question of numbers. Will we get a few, some or a bunch? I dunno…….
      Thanks for joining in.

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  8. You are correct that there is an exodus but not of biblical proportions. Those who can and wish to are buying real estate and creating personal bolt holes. Salt Spring Island has many new residents who sold homes elsewhere and upped sticks to the Gulf Islands. With plenty of off shore tax havens those with means will do okay. Some of the existing are headed to New Zealand and other points salubrious with broadband.

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  9. But it is ambiguous no? OTG means not much people around. So the more people come, the bigger the chances are that some people want more comfort, like being connected to the grid, which by definition would “promote” you from OTG to on-grid. So it will always be a difficult balance, so maybe Scot’s idea is not so bad….

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  10. As for some wanting “more comfort, like being connected to the grid”, off grid living these days need not involve much (if any) sacrifice of comfort. It’s quite possible to replicate most aspects of city life in terms of comfort here in the off grid world. Advances in technology have helped.

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  11. I agree, but if I would go OTG, the idea behind is NOT to be “connected” to the world I live in right now, with lots of people around, the hectic of life in the cities, connected to internet, mobile phones, emails,…and NOT being connected to “a grid” or a lousy internet connection for sure would help. So if you invite more people, and they want electricity, tap water, broad band internet, shops, jobs, decent roads and so on, you will find yourself right bak into the world that you have walked away from. So I can see the ambiguity of bringing more people to the island. At this moment in my life, I would LOVE to have no immediate neighbours, or broadband internet or a mobile phone or a hectic job

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    • Well, do not forget: you ARE invited and you would NOT be the kind to ‘politic’ for grid services. In fact, a few years ago, BC Hydro asked us if we wanted a power station and the response was deafening roar, NO!!!
      Also, the kind of person who is attracted to come here feels the same way – so a few more people will not include the ‘paved driveway’ set.
      We do invite people but we sure as hell do not promise all the grid services. In fact, we do the opposite. We explicitly warn them of NOT having any of that, NOT EVEN A STORE! That does not deter the true OTG spirit. But it also likely accounts for why the population remains much the same. I am still shocked to hear some woman (usually it is the women) say that they ‘simply could not cope without shopping and Starbucks’.

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  12. wimdegendt, Dave has started a new topic, so you might not see this, but…

    You say if you were to go OTG, the idea would be to NOT to be “connected” to the world you live in right now, with lots of people around, the hectic of life in the cities, connected to internet, mobile phones, emails,…and NOT being connected to “a grid” or a lousy internet connection for sure would help.

    I agree to a large extent with those sentiments. When I referred to the ability to have more comfort, i was really speaking about one’s home. One need not rough it. Home out here can be not a whole lot different from town, once you get your systems up and running. Yes, you will have to do your own maintenance, but that’s not all that hard. Actually, that’s where having internet – even lousy internet – comes in handy. One can get online instruction on about any topic imaginable. People actually make YouTube videos about the most obscure things, but very helpful.

    Awhile back, I had to replace a ball valve on our water system. The guy who set it up used a “shark bite” fitting, of which I knew nothing. How to I get the old one out? How to connect the new one? YouTube to the rescue. Just Google “shark bite” and “how to”, and lots of step-by -step instruction. This spring I had a leaking fuel injector on a diesel generator. I could not even identify what part was leaking. I just Googled a few words like “Kubota, diesel, leaking fuel” and right away there was a video showing a Kubota diesel engine with a fuel leak and the video described how what was leaking was a fuel injector and how to fix it. A few dollars worth of parts from a dealer in Courtenay, and 30 minutes of effort and no more leak. But, unlike “life in the city” where I could simply drive to a dealer in 10 minutes and buy the parts needed, it had to be done in a day off-island. If you come home with the wrong parts, or you simply forgot them, you cannot just turn around and go back in 10 minutes.

    I do not eschew the internet. Yes, here it’s pretty crappy, but functional. With it, one never needs to go into a bank to do banking, one can pay just about any bill from home, find out how to fix things, get recipes, etc. The latter comes in handy. A few weeks ago, while fishing, I caught a “cabezon” near home. Had to resort to the internet to identify it and to find out how to cook it.

    Moreover, I earn my living online. If no internet, I have to be in an office in downtown Vancouver, where I served a sentence of about 25 years. Now, I can be here away from the mobs and still make a decent living. I first started to rely on internet for my livelihood living in California in the mid-90s, doing the same when I moved to SE Asia for a few years starting in 1998. I am a decided fan of internet.

    I must say I am a bit astonished by Dave’s revelation of BC Hydro offering some kind of grid service. Even if they brought power to, say, Surge Narrows, the cost of distribution from there would be astronomical. With only about 65 people spread out over 22 square miles of island and a minimum lots size of 10 acres (4 ha.), what would be the cost of all the poles, etc.? When I built a house on Pender Island in 1983, just getting electricity from the paved road to the house – about 200 feet away – cost about $1,600 in 1983 dollars. We went underground from our lot line, since the price of poles and overland was about the same AND, with overland, BC Hydro required all trees to be cleared for 10 feet on either side of the line. If Read Island had above ground lines, they would be taken out by falling trees almost daily. Would Hydro keep a truck and crew on Read for maintenance? Or maybe they would run miles of cable underground. That should be cheap.

    I seem to recall the Cortes Islanders taking a complaint to the Ombudsman (not the now, silly, OmbudsPERSON) about how they were promised a certain price to have electricity brought to Cortes and the final bill just to get cable to the island came in at more than $1 million they were expected to pay. So, I think if BC Hydro was suggesting electric power for a place like Read Island, they were really just joking.

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    • Not joking, R. Even worse, they were offering a diesel genset to power us up! I suppose the idea came from the school district (if ever you want to find concentrated ignorance, there is the place). It was around the time of the Run-of-river projects. Maybe they were trying to show ‘demand’. I dunno. It was pooh-poohed loudly and unanimously because – like you said – no one could afford to ‘hook up’ to a main line down the only road anyway and even fewer wanted a diesel screaming in the background. .

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    • Thanks for the extensive reply :-), I really appreciate it. Thankfully, David gave me a “heads up” that you wrote a reply (which gut buried under his next post)!
      I agree on all your remarks, the idea to go OTG does not mean I want to go back to Medieval situations, I DO like some modern comfort.
      And internet does come in handy, even now I am using Youtube on a regular basis to fix things, so thank god for internet for such occasions. And if you can live OTG and still do your job, I can only be pro!
      But being still in the rat race, I think you understand my “fear” for everything busy and connected and email and internet 😉

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